Before we go into the Hebrew Letter Alef let's talk about some other attributes of the letters.
There are three size letters in the Tanach. The majority of letters is referred to as regular size letters and in the Kabbalah represents the Sefirah of Zeir Anpin which translates as Small Face.
There are large letters which are written double the regular size. In Kabbalah these letters refer to the Sefirah of Binah. There are differing opinions regarding which letters are written large in the Tanach while there is universal agreement as to which letters are written large in the Tanach. If you will remind me at each class i will expand on the letters that are both large and small in the Chumash and in the Tanach.
In the Tanach it is taught that there are all 22 letters written large and all 27 letters are written in the Tanach. There are differing opinions about which letters are written large and small between various Sages and Writings. We generally follow the Mesorah which is one of the oldest parchments found with the Tanach written with vowels.
It is generally agreed that there are three methods of interpretation and explanation with regard to large and small letters. 1. Interpreting the word based on the meaning of the letter word itself. This is usually done with the idea of permutating the letters of a specific word. 2. A large letter is magnified while a small letter is minimized. 3. Addition or Omission. When there is a large letter in a word we will add that same letter a second time. When the letter is a small letter we will sometimes omit that letter from the spelling of the word when we translate or explain the word.
There are 4 places in the Tanach that have regular size letters written as if they are suspended above the line. These 4 letters are Nun in the verse Shoftim Chapter 18:30 and three places with respect to the Ayin. That is Tehillim Chapter 80 Verse 4 and is considered the middle letter of Psalms. Also, two more Ayins in the Book of Job Chapter 38, one in Verse 13 and the other in Verse 15. These letters add hints that expand our understanding of the verses yet actually do not belong within the words themselves.
There are many words that are usually spelled one way in the Tanach yet at certain locations and verse there is added a letter from the Tetragrammaton of Vav Yood or Hey. This also applies to the letter Alef in the spelling of Throne which is Kiseh normally Caf Samech Aleph but sometimes is spelled defective (without the Aleph). An example of the full spelling of the Name David is in Chronicles 1 Chapter 29 Verse 10 where David is spelled with an additional Yood. (דויד) instead of the more usual Dalet Vav Dalet.
When a word is complete it is taught it has more Holiness since the added letter are letters used in the Tetragrammaton or the Alef representing Unity and Oneness. When the word is written defective it indicates a lowering of the Holiness in that context.
The Tagim are the Crowns on certain letters. Not all letters have crowns and some letters have one crown and some letters 3 crowns. In Kabbalah the crowns are very specific and meaningful. It is said that Rabbi Akiva knew 500 (some say 500,000) secrets on each Tag. Actually, there are 1800 Tagim that are shaped in unusual ways in the Tanach. These are the Tagim that Rabbi Akiva interpreted. Unfortunately which of these tags are written differently is no longer publicly known. I do not know the reason why other than the generic explanation that the generations lack the scut or merit to have that information revealed to us.
The Arizal explains that the Letter Alef represents HaShem and His Glory since the Alef Bet is written right to left and the Alef is written first all of the other letters must face away from the Alef thereby demonstrating their honor of the letter Alef and thus not "seeing" His Glory.
The gematria of the Alef is 1 and when spelled out as Alef Lamed Pay the gematria is 111. This is three no 1's. One for each of the columns of the Tree of Life. All of this demonstrates the unity of all things within and without of the Creator.
The Hebrew phrase "Who am I" מי אני also has the gematria of 111. This indicates the ultimate unity of each human being with HaShem when they ask this question of "Who Am I?"
The word Alef אלף translates as "prince," "teaching," or "thousand." Concealed within this word is the word Emet as using the letter substitutions from the parts of the mouth. The Lamed transposes to the Tav while the Pey becomes the Mem. The word Alef then becomes Emet.
We are now going to discuss the meaning of the visual shape of the letter Alef. Prior to discussing this i must caution that some of the Mekubalim teach that the sound of the letters is the most important and the shape is a limiting aspect.
The Alef is made from two Yoods and a Vav. Some teach that this Vav is actually two Vavs. In this case the gematria of the Alef in the normative level becomes 26 which is the gematria of HaShem and 32 representing the 32 Paths of Wisdom in the Tree of Life. In the book of Job, Verse 33:33 is translated as "i will teach you wisdom." This verse has the word Alef spelled with another word. This is a hint that the wisdom that is taught is that of the Alef which includes the wisdom of the Alef Bet.
The original shape of the Alef shows the Vav to be in the vertical. After the sin of Adam and the hiding of the Glory of HaShem the Vav became a diagonal and the Yood became an elongated shape similar to an upside down Dalet.
One of the Sages suggests that the shape of the Alef is symbolic of the elliptical shape of the orbits of the planets. The two Yoods represent the foci's of the ellipse and the diagonal Vav represents the axis of the ellipse. Prior to the sin the planet orbits were circular and after the sin became elliptical.
There are 6 Alefs in the first verse in the Torah. These 6 correspond to the six Parashiot that start with an Alef in the written Torah. They are 1. Noach; 2. Pekudai; 3. Bechukotai; 4. Matai; 5. Devarim; and 6. Nitzavim.
These six verses and these six Parashiot relate to the six thousand years since each Alef translates as "thousand." There are 5 tractates of the Mishna which start with the letter Alef. The Mishna represents the Oral Torah given to us at Sinai. The Mishnah usually relates to the number 6 as there are 6 orders of the Mishna. Usually the number 5 relates to the 5 Books of Moshe. In this way the Creator has hinted to us that the written and oral Torahs are unified and represented by the letter Alef.
The Alef is symmetrical and it has been pointed out by the Gaon DeVilna that the relationship of the two Yoods and 2 Vavs of the Alef correspond to the two-step process of creating our 32 teeth.
The permutations of the word Alef is very informative:
אלף = פלא = אפל = thousand, wonder, and darkness. The aspect of darkness represents that aspect of HaShem that is not yet revealed. The wonder of HaShem is straight forward.
The Hebrew letters create 1540 three letter shoreshim and 231 two letter shoreshim. Israel permutes to be Yesh Rael. ישראל = יש ראל There is 231 = Israel. Coincidentally, Israel has the gematria of 1540 if we use the Alef = 1000. Therefore, Israel includes all of the possible roots of the Hebrew Language.
Another interesting fact relating to the Alef Bet is that there is one Parasha that has the Name that uses the Alef Bet in reverse order. That Parasha is Named Bo spelled בא. Bo means "Come". Here are some emails from my website that helps you to understand the energy of the Parasha Bo.
The Wisdom of the Hebrew Letters
Much of this Wisdom being related to you by me comes from two different books. One is titled “Secrets of the Hebrew Alphabet” by Daniela Abravanel - published by BlossomingBooks. The other is called “Understanding the Alef Bet” by Dovid Leitner.
In order to be able to assimilate the message contained in the letters of the Hebrew Alef – Bet, we must get in touch with what psychology calls the “inner child,” the most pure uncontained, and open minded part of ourselves, which is able to connect without preconception to the energy and teachings of the holy letters. Actually, the level of consciousness we need to reach is above psychology and above the level of "inner child."
Intuition of Divine Oneness Within Multiplicity and Diversity.
The Zohar relates that before creation each letter of the Alef Bet came before HaShem, asking him to use it to begin the process of creation. The letters presented themselves in reverse order: First, came the last letter of the Alef Bet; then the Shin, the second to the last letter of the Alef Bet. This continued until the letter Bet, the second letter of the Alef Bet, who said, "Let the world be created with me, so that all beings will use me and the Torah to bless HaShem." And God assented.
Then HaShem asked the Alef which is the first letter of the Alef Bet, who had not uttered a word, why it was silent. The Alef replied that in the world of plurality, there was no place for it since its numerical value is one.
God then reassured the Alef, saying that even if the world would be created with the Bet, the Alef would still be the queen of the Alef Bet. HaShem said, "Have no fear, Alef, you are one and I am one. I want to create the world to have my spirit of oneness through the study of the Torah and the performance of the Mitzvot. The first of the 10 Commandments will begin with the Alef of the word Anoki אנכי which means “I am.” HaShem meant the phrase “I am” the Lord your God."
We have read some of the Zohar relating to this Midrash mentioned above.
The letter Alef can be separated graphically as two Yood's divided by a letter Vav. The sum of the numerical value of these two Yoods is 20, while the Vav equals six. The total is then 26. 26 is the numerical value Tetragrammaton, the ineffable four letter proper name of God who we will call HaShem. HaShem translates as “The Name” and refers to this Name – יהוה.
The letter Alef represents the absolute unity within the plurality of creation. The letter Alef through its connection to unity represents the immanence and infinity of Creation. Therefore, the letter is the symbol of many of the Names of HaShem which begin with this letter: El אל, אלהים Elohim, Adir אדון Adon אדיר There are many words as well as Names that start with the letter Alef and which either describe HaShem or will be discussed later.
The letter Alef represents and discusses the divine energy imminent in creation. As human beings we must try to reach the awareness and consciousness of the Alef without being confused by the world of illusion. The greatest obstruction in this process is another Anoki – another “I”, our own egos, which can overshadow the Alef and its essence of unity and oneness.
Alef is also the first letter of the first patriarch Abraham who was totally able to perceive the immanence of the divine, the one within the plurality of creation. Abraham addressed God as El, which also begins with an Alef and means God of the universe as well as the hidden or concealed God, the God who reveals and hides himself in his creation. The patriarch attempted to transmit this vision to the people of his generation by bringing people closer to the knowledge of God. That is the purpose of Abraham's Book of Outreach called the "Sefer Yetzirah." This is what is taught within our teachings of the Sefer Yetzirah which is different than other teachers.
EL אל is the name of God most frequently used by Abraham. It represents God's love and desire to work his love and mercy into creation. The Hebrew word for love Ahavah אהבה and Deagah דאגה meaning caring both begin with an Alef or have an Alef in it.
Rediscovering creator with every breath
The word Avir אויר means air. HaShem's life and mercy are chiefly poured into creation through the air, the main vehicle that God uses to keep creation alive. It is common knowledge that a human being can survive for days without drinking or eating but only for a few minutes, at the most, without breathing. For this reason, the Sefer Yetzirah associates the letter Alef, which it categorizes as one of the Mother letters with Air.
Breathing is therefore the best method to enter a state of consciousness in which we can perceive divine light. We can perceive HaShem more directly using breathing techniques. The Light of HaShem is concealed within the Air. This is taught by looking at the word Avir אויר and recognizing that the letters of Light Ohr אור are concealed within it.
This is also why presence of HaShem, in the chapter 150 verse 6 speaks as follows Kol HaNeshamah VeHalelehyah Haleluyah. The typical translation is Every Soul will Praise HaShem called Yah יה. The Midrash invites us to read this verse not as it is written: Kol HaNeshamah נשמה - every soul but Kol HaNishimah - נשימה every breath shall praise HaShem. Every time we take a long breath with the proper intent we come closer to HaShem. Indeed, the name of one of God's 13 attributes of mercy, Erech Hapayim - ארך הפים which is translated as patience, literally means “long breath.”
The letter Alef also starts the world Echad אחד which means one, oneness, and / or unity. The numerical value of the word Echad is 13 which is also the numerical value of word אהבה love and also the word DeAgah דאגה. These connections teach us that the letter Alef represents the oneness of HaShem and his love for his creatures / creations.
This love and caring is also teaching us the connection between the Creator HaShem and His attribute of Chesed which is Loving Kindness. Sometimes Chesed is called Goodness. This is because HaShem had the thought of Creation to share goodness and pleasures with his Creations as taught in Kabbalah.
Adam has the task of working the earth
The letter Alef is also the first letter of the word Adam, which means man and also has the meaning of the name Adam. As we are taught in Kabbalah every Name connects to the essence and meaning of what is called by that name.
Adam also connects to the Mitzvah to resemble God, Adamah LeElyon אדמה לאליון. This is translated in a few ways. When it is referred to as a Mitzvah it is translated as “I will resemble the most high.” Other translations can be “higher earth” as well as “Adam is the Higher Vessel.”
Adam's resemblance to divinity consists in his ability to emulate the desire to contain within himself and then emanate the light, which is Ohr in Hebrew, and love which is Ahavah in Hebrew. If this does not occur, the word Adam divides into the Alef and then Dam א דם, the translation of this is the "Alef of blood" and the expression then refers to the suffering of humanity when it refuses to resemble God.
By analyzing the word Adam even deeper, we can find some suggestions that can help human beings not lose their resemblance to their creator. The first is to remember that the first man was created directly from the Earth/land/dirt which is Adamah אדמה in Hebrew. This teaches us that people need contact with the earth, with its vitality, in order to realize their full potential. The oral tradition states that a man who does not possess a field is not a man. This takes additional understanding and information. This implies that one of the causes of the current societies' ills and chaotic energy being out of balance is not being connected to the land. There are Kabbalists who teach that one needs to leave the city to reconnect to the Land energy. The Torah teaches that the first City was built by Cain. How much one needs to connect to the Land and how often is something that each person must decide for themselves. This is one of the Mitzvot of the Noachide Laws. The Mitzvah that that tells us to not tear the limb from a living animal to eat it.
The survival of humanity also depends on its ability to follow the mitzvot given by HaShem to Adam. Adam was given mitzvot to preserve and protect the land that he was meant to cultivate. The Rabbis of the midrash say: when God created Adam, he showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and then said to him "look at the perfection of my work! I created it for you, so remember it and do not corrupt it, making my world desolate. Because if you corrupt the earth there will be no other to repair it."
If humanity continues to work the earth without taking measures to preserve it then ecological catastrophe will be unavoidable. The Torah and the Talmud, which are not exclusively concerned with the spiritual aspect of existence, contain precious instructions concerning protecting the environment. Examples of this are recycling wastes, maintaining purity of water and air, and observing Shemitta, the year of rest for the land every seven years.
The ability to make associations and the laws of deduction.
Another concept related to the word Adam is the word Adimah אדימה which translates as imagination. Imagination in addition to its usual connotation also includes the capacity to make associations and deductions. (This is the essence behind gematria and notariken.) The word, Adimah is both Adam with the addition of the letter / Name Yood Hey - Yah, a Name of HaShem.
The word / idea of Kabbalah itself has a similar meaning: its root is Kabel קבל from which the word mekabel מקביל which translates as parallel is derived. Most of the study of this discipline is based on our ability to make associations. When / if we learn to translate the material world into symbols and / or metaphors, we will be able to carry on a lively and steady dialogue with the Divine in any moment of our day. The search for affinities between physical and spiritual reality, between the lower and higher levels, is the best protection we can give our consciousness against falling into the façade of plurality and materialism.
The spiritual mission of Adam and therefore of all humanity, is to discover all of the profound teaching found in every phenomenon of creation. God tested Adam's maturity by asking him to contact the spiritual essence of the animals closely enough to enable him to attribute a name to each of them. The Hebrew word Shem שם, meaning name, is the center of the word Neshama נשמה translated as “spiritual soul.” By calling every animal by name, Adam showed how he could use his imagination, Dimayon דימיון, to deduce the soul of a thing from its external phenomena. For example, the word for dog, Kalev is a contraction of the word Kol כל meaning “all / everything” and Lev לב meaning heart. This expresses how a dog is all heart or all sentiment. This is also taught by another contraction of Lev with the word Ki כי which is translated “like.” “A dog is like a heart”.
Did you realize from the paragraph above that the old adage "do not judge a book by its cover" is false?. We just need to return to the consciousness of Adam before the fall. That is Mashiach Consciousness.
In the same way (using imagination and making parallel associations and deductions) Solomon was called the wisest of men because he could invent 3000 parables to explain any concept. Thanks to his ability to ascend from the material to the spiritual King Solomon was able to proceed backwards along the path of creation, from matter to the spirit, King Solomon could make any concept understandable to all possible levels of comprehension.
There is much more to the Alef in the 5 levels of understanding than expressed here. Please use all of these levels to enhance your connection to the Alef. The 5 levels of each letter is:
1. Visual Shape
2. Sound of the Letter
3. Revealed Words
4. Concealed Words
5. Numerical Essences
Here are some quick hints to these levels of the letters: Remember these hints are not complete. There is much more for you to learn in/from your own meditations.
1. Visual Shape: The Yood above the Vav is Heaven; the Yood below the Vav is the Earth; both have a connection to the Creator. The Vav is the firmament between Heaven and Earth and is also connected to the Creator in a different way.
2. The Sound of the letter Alef includes all of the sounds of all of the letters since one must inhale to exhale another letter. The sound of the inhale is the sound of the Alef.
3. See above
4. Man's Love of War comes from substituting a Hey for the Alef in Adam. This word הדם translates as “The Blood.”
Substitute an Ayin for the Alef in Adamah and you spell two words Ad which is Witness and Mah which is What. “The Witness What is the essence of Man.”
5. Adam has a gematria of 45 which is the same as the word Mah or “What.” In Small gematria Adam is 9 which is Chochmah when counting up from Malchut and Yesod when counting down from Keter.
I will give you this story for each letter. Here is the story for the Alef. All of the stories come from a book THE TWENTY TWO GATES TO THE GARDEN by Stephen M Rossman
The letter Alef
In the beginning there was a garden and a palace. 22 gates opened into the garden. 22 paths led from the gates to the palace. The palace had only one door.
What an unusual palace it was! it was constructed with bricks that were crafted in the shapes of each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alef Bet. The space between each letter and its neighbor was the mortar that helps the palace stay together.
The 22 gates to the garden were each opened by a different key shaped like a different letter of the Alef Bet. The Alef gate would be opened only by the Alef key, the Bet gate only by the Bet key, the Gimmel gate only by the Gimmel. In the palace live the King, Queen, Prince and the Princess.
Can you describe How this story relates to the Letter Alef?
May you have a Good Meditation!
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